Florida Constitutional Ballot Amendments

 

BY KEISHA BELL, ESQ.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Many find the language of the proposed ballot amendments confusing. After research and for those wanting some suggestions, here are my recommendations (with a few notes). Remember, your voice is your vote.

Amendment 1 — Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption – NO

Amendment 2 — Limitations on Property Tax Assessments — YES
Some studies predict that the failure to pass this amendment would disproportionately affect seniors who live on fixed incomes, businesses and renters. A concern is that taxes will rise and the cost will be heavily shifted onto these groups.

Amendment 3 – Control of Gambling in Florida – YES

Setting aside your feelings on gambling, gambling interests have flooded Florida’s political system with campaign contributions and lobbyists. By putting the power directly in the hands of voters, Amendment 3 makes it less likely that special interests would be able to influence policy decisions regarding gambling.

Amendment 4 – Voting Restoration Amendment – YES

Amendment 5 – Super Majority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees – NO

Although this sounds like a good idea, this could restrict the government’s ability to raise funds. In the long term, this could cause policy challenges, as well as, adversely affect the idea of expanding programs. FYI: This proposal does not apply to fees or taxes by county, municipality, school board or special district.

Amendment 6 – Rights of Crime Victims; Judges – NO

Increasing the judicial retirement age; Abolishing long-standing deference to state agencies and victims’ rights are our topics here. It’s the Marsy’s Law claim; however, that is highlighted. This amendment would broaden the definition of “victim” to include corporations, limited liability companies and other corporate entities.

In effect, it would provide constitutional rights for corporations. Furthermore, this amendment would delete current constitutional protections for those accused of a crime. In a system that so many believe is broken, it is vital that the constitutional rights of the accused are respected.

Amendment 7 – First Responder and Military Member Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities – NO

Universities need fee flexibility – especially during times when state support seems sluggish. In addition, this ballot amendment creates an undetermined financial burden on local and state government for paying death benefits to a larger group of first responders and members of the military without identifying a funding source for acquiring said payments.

Note, federal law guarantees death benefits for survivors of U.S. military personnel killed in-the-line-of-duty. Also, Florida law guarantees death benefits for the survivors of Florida law enforcement officers, correctional and correctional probation officers.

Amendment 8REMOVED

Amendment 9 – Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces – YES

Amendment 10 – State and Local Government Structure and Operation – NO

The first part of this ballot amendment is to change the dates of Legislative Session. The second part proposes adding a state Department of Veteran Affairs into the Florida Constitution. These are already authorized for the Legislature. In addition, the idea of creating an office to counter-terrorism in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is repetitive.

The third part IMO is the real focus here. I support home rule. County voters should not be prohibited from adopting a charter to change duties for or appoint constitutional officers.

Amendment 11 – Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes Clause – NO

Two parts of this ballot amendment are likened to “clean up” parts – first, to repeal the state’s ability to stop non-citizens from buying, owning or selling property, and second, to delete obsolete language in the Constitution about high-speed rail (which in 2004 voters voted not to support). The real question here is whether to repeal the “Savings Clause,” a clause that forbids making changes to criminal sentencing laws retroactively.

My concern with this proposal is that it fails to explicitly state that this would apply only when a change in the law is more lenient. I need to see clear language. Reportedly, gun rights groups support this ballot amendment in hopes that it will make retroactive a change (that occurred in 2017) to the “stand your ground” law that puts the burden of proof on the prosecution instead of on the defendants in pre-trial hearings.

Note, there are alternative ways to try to reduce criminal sentences if that is the true goal, which can be addressed by the Florida Legislature. The intent is not clear enough for my support, particularly during a time when privatization of prisons is its own industry.

Amendment 12 – Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers – NO

This is a missed opportunity to deal with IMO the real issue of the impact of money in political campaigns. Expanding a lobbying firms’ ability to hire former lawmakers as “lobbyists” from two years to six years is just that — an extension. This ballot amendment also restricts current public officers from using their office for personal gain. Frankly, the Florida Legislature could address these points. The title gives hope, but the verbiage left me disappointed.

Amendment 13 – Ends Dog Racing — YES

 

Keisha Bell

#BeInformed No matter if we agree or not, do not forget to VOTE!

Keisha Bell is an attorney, author and public servant. To reach Bell, email her at emergingfree@gmail.com or log on to www.emergingfree.com to view more of her work.

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